The WTA has reacted with incredulity to the Welsh Government’s announcement on changes to self-catering rules.
The Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA), which represents over 6,000 tourism businesses across Wales, has reacted with incredulity to the Welsh Government’s announcement on changes to self-catering rules. As part of its commitment to tackling the issue of too many second homes in some Welsh communities, Welsh Government is raising the number of days a property is available and let in order to qualify as a business. The current availability threshold rises from 140 to 252 and the current occupancy threshold rises from 70 to 182 days.
The consultation was initially welcomed by the professional self-catering sector, keen to distinguish tourism businesses from second homes which offer casual lets. However, despite responses to its consultation favouring a more practical rise in thresholds, Welsh Government proceeded to draft legislation containing these new figures, supported by just nine respondents. This prompted 1500 replies from Welsh businesses with first hand evidence that only 16% of them would be able to achieve these new thresholds. By the closing date, 400 of them had been given as full case studies to Welsh Government, with the offer of disclosing the remainder.
Suzy Davies, Chair of the WTA said: “Welsh Government says it has “limited evidence”. So why are they making policy on the back of it? The limitation is their own, not the industry’s. They have not produced a shred of evidence as to why this won’t impact local economies.
“Conversely, it is rare that Welsh Government will receive this much first hand evidence of the impact of a policy by those affected. We received several reassurances that these real experiences would be taken into account. These are not the experiences of second home owners: These are the experiences of local people who have invested in micro and small businesses and have been contributing to the local economy, often for many years.
“It may well stop second home owners claiming they are businesses in order to game the local taxation system. We also want that stopped. But in setting these thresholds so high, Welsh Government will be taking out local businesses too.
“These are the professional businesses who, however innovative they are, cannot create summer-style demand throughout the year.
“The threat is especially acute in counties which have adopted premium rates of council tax on second homes. If businesses are re-categorised as second homes because they don’t reach the new thresholds (they’d earn more if they did) they will also have to pay the higher council tax, double punishment.
“Like dolphins accidentally caught in fishing nets, these businesses will die. The irony is that they will be selling their properties to wealthier outsiders who can afford high council tax. So, fewer local businesses, more second homes, zero effect on local housing stock and zero effect on house prices.
“MSes supporting this policy may want to think about what they will say to constituents who can’t find professional self catering properties for a holiday, and end up paying second home owners for a casual let instead. And what they will say to constituents who will still not be able to afford a home, not least because this policy takes out local jobs too.”